Friday, March 26, 2010

Robert De Niro's waiting...

Here in the Languedoc, you are almost as likely to hear Spanish on a daily basis as you are French. My vet often goes off on a Spanish tangent and at my Thursday night Flamenco dance class, it's very easy to imagine that I'm living in rural Spain. Tapas are on almost every menu, and I think the ratio of cava to champagne in my wine rack is prettily heftily in favour of the former.

Luckily, I minored in Spanish at university (although everytime I go to Barcelona I realize how useless Mexican Spanish is in Catalonia....), and I manage to pick up words here and there. I love the Spanish-influenced flavour of the local accent.

But I dream of being able to speak Italian. I've been trying to teach myself, unsuccessfully, for the last 5 years or so. I have all the books and CDs and even had a private tutor for awhile. The tutor was interesting because of course she was teaching me Italian in French, which just made it all the more difficult for me to concentrate.

I think I get to a point where I have a good grasp of the language, then I'm in Italy, and all I can do is speak in French. It's like my brain is telling me I need to be speaking a foreign language, so hey, French will do. All of my efforts at studying Italian fly right out the old finestra.

If only I lived over by Nice, where the chances of picking up Italian would be so much easier. Although, of course, then I'd probably be living in a shoe box, unable to afford to go to Italy, but nevermind. I guess I'll just have to continue the old-fashioned way.

Although I'm starting to think that maybe you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I watch the little ladies gadding about speaking French and English with perfect accents and I have to fight back the envy. My 7-year old says that she wants to start learning Italian with me. That's like saying Carl Lewis wants to start going running with me. Nothing like a 7-year old multi-linguist to spur you into action.

I know I'm lucky to be able to speak passable French. I see so many foreigners living here who struggle daily, unable to speak the language. And while I know that I should concentrate on perfecting my French, there's just something about Italian that makes me dreamy. They say the best way to learn a language is take a lover who speaks that language, but somehow I doubt the Duke would be up for that, no matter how supportive he is.

How about you? Any fluent Italian speakers out there? I'll trade you half my French for half your Italian...

10 comments:

Jennie said...

I've been finally getting back into learning Italian and German lately, and French is always the first thing that pops up in my mind too. That's why I've been using French books and websites to learn other languages. Having English in the way would make it worse!

Don't believe the myth about older people not being able to learn as much or as well as younger people. It's just the methods of learning that are different because our brains change as we age.

Buona fortuna!

The Duchess said...

Jennie,
Thanks for that boost of confidence. I wouldn't even know where to start with German!

Almost American said...

I think a lot of it is attitude - I work with some young language learners who are failing miserably because they just don't care - and they're learning English in the USA!

Have you seen the language learning website LiveMocha? You might find it helpful - it's free, so it can't hurt to try!

The Duchess said...

Thanks AA- I'll check the site out!

paris (im)perfect said...

Hi there,

Good for you for taking on Italian...even if the results are mixed. When I first started learning French, it came out in Spanish. I read that while learning the third language, the brain circuits through the second foreign language. So for the fourth, it circuits through the third? It makes my head spin just thinking about it!

I'm a bit jealous that you hear as much Spanish as French. I love Italian, too, but I'd definitely take a dose of daily Spanish to ease up the French. Doesn't really happen that much in Paris...

Good luck!
Sion

The Duchess said...

Hi Sion- Sometimes at the school gates, when there are alot of 'mamies' picking the kids up, all I hear is Spanish! They have a hard time understanding my French unless I put on a thick Spanish accent when I speak...lol

fashion survivor said...

Italian is fun! And easier than learning French, I think. However, Spanish was the first language I learned, way back in junior high, and often when I can't think of a word in Italian it pops up in Spanish. I was asked if I was Spanish a few times while speaking Italian in Italy and French in France! Just don't worry about making mistakes or being perfect and enjoy learning and speaking it. And listening to it, if nothing else...

The Duchess said...

Hi FS- I do have fun learning Italian, I just wish my memory was better!lol What I like about Italian is that it is pronounced very much as you see it (mostly), which makes it seem easier sometimes than French. I do love listening to it, such a passionate language!

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

I have one of those damned multi-linguists in my family too. My kids attended les écoles bilingues in Berkeley from toddlerdom (not a word, I know...) and as such both have fluent french and beautiful accents. My daughter, however, has the language bug. After one year of college in Florence, Italy...she had Italian...and after 5+ years with a spanish fiancée ... she's completely fluent in Spanish as well.

I'm just thankful I'm making myself understood daily in France and improving on the 2nd language.

Italian is a very sexy language, isn't it? I view French as Romantic, Spanish as fiery and english as completely dullsville. le sigh.

The Duchess said...

NJNRR- Wow, I'm in awe of people like that! I think it is such an amazing gift. I hope my two think so too when they are older.

I think Italian is quite sexy too! Just a simple 'ciao, bella' and I'm swooning (guess that makes me a bit easier....lol).